I wanted to have a look for some French books in London. I knew I could buy them online any time, but I wanted to be able to browse and rummage, and to be able to ask advice from a proper bookseller. I remembered “La Page” from a few years ago and went back there with my daughter to explore again.
The website is www.librairielapage.com. (By the way “librairie” is a false friend – it means bookshop in French, not library. “Bibliothèque” is the word for library). Situated at 7 Harrington Road SW7 3ES, the shop is very close to South Kensington tube station and we combined our visit with delicious “fraisier” (French strawberry cake) at Paul French café and a walk around Hyde Park. I often think how lucky we are to live within easy distance of central London, because in the school holidays we can come up on the train and don’t even need to spend lots of money to have a fun day. At the very least, parks and museums are free.
Anyway, back to the bookshop. It is one of many French shops in the area – mostly selling ice cream and patisserie, very good but some of them very pricey. “La Page” looked different from how I remembered it. It seemed to have opened out, become brighter and gained more stock. I was looking for a light read, and after an indecisive browse I asked the friendly assistant for help. Not only did she come and show me several different books which might fit the bill, she also continued to talk to me in French and obviously enjoyed helping me to make the right choice.
In the end I chose “Le Chapeau de Mitterand” by Antoine Laurain and ordered “Les Yeux Jaunes des Crocodiles” by Katherine Pancol (La Page received it really quickly and notified me). I’m in the middle of the Laurain book and it’s a charming, witty tale about 1980s France. President Mitterand leaves his hat behind in a restaurant, it’s picked up by a fellow diner and then changes hands again. The hat leads its wearers to make important changes in their lives. I know, it sounds strange, but it does make sense in the story and I can’t wait to see how it ends. I feel like I could read this story in one sitting but usually leave reading until late evening and then nod off over the book, so not much chance of that.
In the meantime my 12 year-old daughter was in the junior section and had spotted “Tom Gates: Les Friandises A Gogo (ou pas)” by Liz Pichon. It’s been translated from the English “”Extra Special Treats (or not)”, a book she hadn’t read yet and so we bought that as well. In my post of 24 September, “Funny books in French and German”, I wrote about these Liz Pichon books which are a lot of fun (for adults as well), very easy to read and full of colloquial language and funny doodles. Here are some of the picture books for younger children:
There was a wide range of “bandes dessinées”, or graphic novels, in the shop, for both adults and children. Apart from Tintin and Asterix, graphic novels are pretty well unknown in the UK. Having said that, we’ve just bought a lovely graphic version of the classic children’s book “Tom’s Midnight Garden” by Edith (no surname). The original author was Philippa Pearce; the graphic version was published in French as “Tom et le jardin de minuit” and has just been translated from French back into English!
As well as books there is a tempting selection of stationery and gifts. We were surprised to see a notice about “Club Petit Pierrot”. Since 1993 they’ve been providing fun French lessons in various London venues for babies and young children up to the age of 8 years. Most importantly, the teachers are all native French speakers. I used to go to their weekly sessions with my daughter from the age of 2 and a half to 3 and a half, and then she went on her own. The children learn through stories, puppets, songs, dances, games and art activities. They’re running taster workshops at La Page on Saturday 17 December, but you have to book places first (£8 per child). www.clubpetitpierrot.co.uk. I think Club Petit Pierrot deserves a post in its own right so I’ll write about our experiences with this club another time.
“Librairie La Page” has long opening hours: from 8.15 am until 6.30 pm Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6.30 pm Saturday and 10 am to 5.30 pm Sunday. Next time I go there I’ll be looking at the graphic novels.